Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (starring Sharrif Earp, Ashton Sanders and Trevonte Rhodes as Chiron, the main character throughout three stages of his life, and Jaden Piner, Jharell Jerome and Andre Holland as his best friend Kevin) is a must see film.
First, I need to give a huge shout out to Brad Pitt for not just talking about it, but being about it and working toward meaningfully diversifying the norm in Hollywood through his production company Plan B and through production company a24. Pitt and Adele Romanski produced Moonlight. He’s been referred to as the wokest white man in Hollywood, and now I see why. After building a multicultural family, Pit obviously appreciates the beauty of diverse stories and understands their importance.
Moonlight is about so much more than the hardships of a poor, gay, black boy growing up into a gay, black man. It is about the evolution that takes place within all our lives as we attempt to navigate our way through this thing we call life, from childhood into adulthood and beyond; finding our footing, discovering who we truly are and accepting ourselves, totally. It is about growth and change and those deep down parts of ourselves that remain the same, no matter how we try to reinvent ourselves. It is about becoming and being your true self, living your truth, and that rare handful of people in your life who allow you to be totally, unashamedly, yourself – without judgment – who continue to love, nurture and support you because of and in spite of who you are. It is about loving yourself and finding meaningful, real love in this life. It is a simple story, told in a way that anyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender or, sexual orientation, can relate to. Don’t let the homosexuality scare you. This movie is about too many more important aspects of life. Although sexuality is an important aspect of the character, it becomes a smaller part of what the movie is really about. Moonlight shows how difficult and desperate being an outsider can make one feel.
The acting here is superb. Most notably, Mahershala Ali as Chiron’s mentor who is a powerful and imposing figure at times. You can’t quite tell what he’s up to and it adds a great level of suspense to the movie. This man is making big moves in his career now, here in Moonlight, starring as “Cottonmouth” in Luke Cage and as lobbyist and former press secretary Remy Danton on House of Cards, both on Netflix. I’m super happy that he is gaining much deserved exposure and his career is blossoming, because he is a fine actor. Naomie Harris as Chiron’s mother makes a great “villain.” Trevonte Rhodes and Andre Holland, as the adult Chiron and Kevin, do a downright outstanding job here with the subtlety of their acting.
Hats off to Barry Jenkins for taking three actors and seamlessly weaving them together, making them recognizable from stage to stage (ages 9, 16 and adult) with spot-on mimicking of mannerisms. Although the actors who played Chiron and Kevin do not necessarily look like the same person, you get the feeling this could be what these two young men grow up to look like because they have the same affect and body language. And they make you believe it. Even when Chiron is an adult trying to put all the bad years behind and reinvent himself, there are times when you see that insecure little boy who was chased, bullied and beaten. As Kevin grows he still has the same swagger and confidence he always had, despite going through his own challenges.
This movie feels very “real,” with interruptions in conversations, an uneven kitchen stove burner, a child boiling hot water on the stove in a pot to take a bath, a mean bully who doesn’t let up ever, a cruel, messed-up, mother, the awkwardness of Chiron’s high school aged character, the naiveté of a child that is combined with what kids suspect and know, the shame and rejection children who are “different” can receive and feel, the images of ourselves that we project out into the world vs. who we really are deep down inside, everything about this movie is very thoughtful and has meaning. Even when it doesn’t seem that way, it does. Even the picture above featuring a collage of all three actors who play Chiron is meaningful. It all feels powerfully familiar in a real way. And it is all part of real life.
Moonlight addresses the issue of boys growing up without fathers and needing mentors in the black community. It addresses the black community’s attitude toward male homosexuality. It addresses stereotypes, stigmas, labels, hurtful names and judgments. All in a very true-to-life, “real” way. Without being “preachy,” without taking any sides for or against homosexuality, Moonlight just shows what “is;” the truth of one man’s life. That is what makes this movie masterful. It is about this one character taking power over and mastering himself, as we all have to do in life.
Kudos to the casting director for casting so much strong talent, using many unknowns and first time actors in the cast. I love that they didn’t resort to the same pool of black actors that circulates Hollywood and gets plum movie roles. There wasn’t a familiar actor in the bunch (with the exception of Ali). The pool has been refreshed!
There are times when the dialogue sounds like poetry and the camera work is nothing short of a work of art. There are shots that evoke such feeling, because they are so powerful and beautiful and artfully done, it is incredible. Even the soundtrack lends depth to the film. This movie has meaning and soul.
Moonlight earned 10 out of 10 bloops, with that 10th bloop thrown in for Brad Pitt because he is awesome, and because this film is too damn innovative not to get 10 bloops. It is innovative not only because it is about a gay, black boy/man (how many movies about a gay black boy becoming a man can you name right now? I’ll wait…), but also because people of diverse ethnicities collaborated to bring forth a universally relatable story that introduces new talent to Hollywood and is a breath of fresh air in the American movie making landscape. Bravo!
1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Florence Foster Jenkins
I Am Not Your Negro